I recently asked myself a simple question. “What is the difference between a person who owns a $5000.00 system and one who owns a $500,000.00 system?” The obvious answer is income. More importantly, disposable income. Anyone with a half-million-dollar system is certainly a high income individual. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized there were two other reasons – interest and knowledge.
There are many people who have a $5000.00 system who can afford one many times that value. They may have other expensive interests beyond audio. Maybe, they only need an system for casual listening before taking friends for a ride on their million-dollar yacht. So, it seems obvious that not everyone with means has interest in audio.
Another reason is lack of knowledge about audio and audio components. My first foray, many years ago, into high end audio was a simple integrated amp. I was only aware of it because that was what the local stereo store sold. I only knew one person who had an amp AND a preamp in those early days. If someone had told me that such things as Class A or Single Ended Triode components existed I would not have had a clue what they meant. Obviously they did exist, I just didn’t know about them.
Our industry can do very little to help with potential customer’s income capacity, but our industry can certainly do something to help with a potential customer’s knowledge level. I suspect that most audiophiles gain knowledge the same way that I did – on their own. Just like most audiophiles, my journey into learning more about the industry is always ongoing. I discover new things and concepts I did not know about before all the time.
There are industry professionals who specialize in high end audio whose knowledge about the industry seems expansive. Professional reviewers, for example, often have been recording engineers in their past. Most high-performance audio manufacturers seem to know what they are doing. In any case, some writers and manufacturers seem to have more knowledge than others, but after all, they all have made it their life’s work to know audio.
What about the rest of us?
]]>How far into audio knowledge someone wants to go depends on one’s interest level. If you purchase a book on acoustics for example, it may require some background in mathematics and physics to completely understand the book’s technical explanations. Talking with knowledgeable audio professionals is almost always a rewarding experience. Reputable dealers can answer a lot of questions and provide explanations of audio terminology. There are also dictionaries on the subject of audio. Probably the most well known is J. Gordon Holt’s “The Audio Glossary” first published in 1990. A first edition copy is hard to come by but there are reprints available as well as online.
“Knowledge is power” is a well worn phrase. In high-end audio it is a worthwhile practice. When you pursue a hobby that can easily be as expensive as ours, being knowledgeable is an absolute requirement.
It should seem obvious that those with a half-million-dollar system will derive tremendous joy from their efforts. That level of components and phenomenal sound go hand in hand. In no way does it mean that someone with a $5000.00 budget for a system, or one of even lesser value, cannot derive equal pleasure from their music. Beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder.
Whatever the price level of system you plan to assemble, be sure to be as knowledgeable as possible before starting your journey – because there is a salient difference between writing a check based on an informed decision and doing so based on ignorance and supposition. I should know, as I’ve tried to do exactly that.
Paul Wilson has been a high end audio enthusiast for over forty years. He listens primarily to jazz but also likes many other types of music. He lives in North Carolina and makes his living as the owner of a manufacturer’s representative sales company specializing in custom molded plastics and custom fabricated and machined metal component parts for Original Equipment Manufacturers. He is also a budding freelance writer for Audiophile Review. His other interests include travel, vintage muscle cars, cooking, sports, and spending time with family and friends.